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Slow Cooker Browns-in-the-Crockpot Spicy Ground Beef Taco Meat

Ground Beef goes in the slow cooker with spices and hot sauce, and a few hours later you have perfectly browned and seasoned Crockpot Spicy Ground Beef Taco Meat for taco salad or ground beef tacos! 

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Slow Cooker Browns-in-the-Crockpot Spicy Ground Beef Taco Meat found on KalynsKitchen.com

When I used to teach school I would take Kalyn’s Perfect Taco Salad for lunch several times a week, and I’m still a huge taco salad fan even now when I have more lunch options. And I love having little containers of this ground beef taco meat in the freezer so I can make taco salad whenever I start to crave it. So when I first saw this idea for cooking ground beef in the slow cooker without pre-browning the meat, of course I had to try it! Since then I’ve been a complete convert to this method, and if you stop by my house you’ll always find Slow Cooker Browns-in-the-Crockpot Spicy Ground Beef Taco Meat in the freezer!

I love the ground beef tacos you get at Mexican restaurants, where the meat is highly seasoned and very finely broken apart, so that’s what I was going for when I worked on this recipe. I used a very generous amount of Cholula Original Hot Sauce to season the meat, so if you’re making this for kids (or adults who don’t like much heat) you probably want to use the smaller amount listed in the recipe. I let the meat cook for nearly four hours on high for that broken-apart texture I like so much, mashing with an old-fashioned Potato Masher about once every hour.

There’s a lot to love about this Crockpot Spicy Ground Beef Taco Meat, but an added bonus is that you can cook this meat in the slow cooker without heating up the house, so you can enjoy Taco Salad all summer long. (On my other blog, Slow Cooker or Pressure Cooker I’m sharing Summer Dinners for the next few months, and this is definitely perfect for that!)


Slow Cooker Browns-in-the-Crockpot Spicy Ground Beef Taco Meat found on KalynsKitchen.com

Some people start with frozen ground beef, but that didn’t appeal to me so I thawed the meat overnight in the fridge. Put 3 pounds of very lean ground beef in the slow cooker, breaking it apart with your hands.  (I used the Ninja Cooker that Lydia sent me, but you can use any 4-5 quart slow cooker.) Mix together Cholula hot sauce, ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, salt, and water. Pour the spicy mixture over the ground beef. Then use a large spoon to stir the seasoning mixture into the ground beef and start to cook on high.

Slow Cooker Browns-in-the-Crockpot Spicy Ground Beef Taco Meat found on KalynsKitchen.com

After an hour I used my Potato Masher to start to break the meat apart. At this point I was worried that I shouldn’t have added the water, but it worked out fine. At two hours I mashed the mixture with the potato masher again, and the water was being absorbed nicely. After three hours the ground beef is getting to be just the texture I wanted. It was probably done enough at this point, but I let it cook about 45 minutes more. I got quite a few  little containers of seasoned ground beef to put in the freezer, and each one was enough to make a large taco salad or several tacos.

Slow Cooker Browns-in-the-Crockpot Spicy Ground Beef Taco Meat found on KalynsKitchen.com

I make this Crockpot Spicy Ground Beef Taco Meat over and over, every time I run out of taco meat in the freezer!

More Tacos from the Slow Cooker or Pressure Cooker:

Pressure Cooker (or Slow Cooker) Low-Carb Flank Steak Tacos ~ Kalyn’s Kitchen
The BEST Slow Cooker Mexican Food Recipes ~ Slow Cooker or Pressure Cooker
Instant Pot (or Slow Cooker) Low-Carb Cheesy Chicken Tacos ~ Kalyn’s Kitchen
The BEST Slow Cooker Beef Tacos ~ Slow Cooker or Pressure Cooker
Instant Pot (or Slow Cooker) Low-Carb Greek Pork Tacos ~ Kalyn’s Kitchen
Taco Tuesdays Archives Page ~ Slow Cooker or Pressure Cooker

Weekend Food Prep:

This recipe has been added to a new category called Weekend Food Prep  to help you find recipes you can prep or cook on the weekend and eat during the week!

Slow Cooker Browns-in-the-Crockpot Spicy Ground Beef Taco Meat

I love this idea of using the slow cooker to brown ground beef to make spicy taco meat and I make this often so I can always have meat on hand for Kalyn’s Perfect Taco Salad! I used my 6 quart Ninja Cooker to make this, but it was barely over half full, so any 4 or 5 quart slow cooker will do.

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb. lean ground beef (I used lean ground beef with 9% fat; I wouldn’t use fatty ground beef since you’re not draining the meat)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup Cholula hot sauce (Buy the big size bottle at Costco or at a Mexican market for this recipe. For kids, I would definitely use the smaller amount of hot sauce.)
  • 2 T ground cumin
  • 2 T garlic powder
  • 2 T onion powder
  • 1 tsp. coarse grind black pepper (or less, to taste)
  • salt to taste (I used only about 1/2 tsp.)
  • 1/4 cup water (plus a little more water as needed if you’re using the smaller amount of hot sauce)

Directions:

  1. Thaw ground beef overnight in the fridge, or if you forget to plan ahead, thaw in hot water for about 20-30 minutes. Spray cooker with non-stick spray, then put the thawed ground beef into the slow cooker, breaking it apart with your hands.
  2. Mix Cholula hot sauce, ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, salt, and water.  Pour the hot sauce mixture over the ground beef and use a large spoon to stir it into the meat.
  3. Cook the meat and spice mixture on high for 3-4 hours. After each hour, remove the lid and use an old-fashioned Potato Masher to mash the meat mixture about 8-10 times, so that by the time it is done the meat will be finely crumbled.
  4. If you’re using the smaller amount of hot sauce, you might want to add a couple of tablespoons of water part way through the cooking time.  (You can probably cook this for 6-8 hours on low and mash it every couple of hours, but I haven’t tried that.)
  5. Use meat mixture to makeKalyn’s Perfect Taco Salad or any Ground Beef Tacos or Beef Burritos of your choice. I freeze mine in small containers so I can thaw it quickly in the microwave whenever that Taco Salad craving hits me.

This recipe created by Kalyn but inspired by quite a few other variations I saw on Pinterest!

All images and text ©

Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
This low-carb and gluten-free taco meat is perfect for Kalyn’s Perfect Taco Salad, or eat the meat inside lettuce cups or over cauliflower rice or slaw for a meal that’s suitable for the low-carb eating plans and The South Beach Diet Phase One. Or use low-carb tortillas and make tacos if you prefer.

Find More Recipes Like This One:
Use the Recipes by Diet Type photo index pages to find more recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You might also like to Follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.

Nutritional Information?
If you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into this nutrition analyzer, which will calculate it for you. Or if you’re a member of Yummly, you can use the Yum button on my site to save the recipe and see the nutritional information there.

Slow Cooker Browns-in-the-Crockpot Spicy Ground Beef Taco Meat found on KalynsKitchen.com

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31 comments on “Slow Cooker Browns-in-the-Crockpot Spicy Ground Beef Taco Meat”

  1. Oh, this is absolutely my kind of recipe! For some reason, I've never thought of cooking ground beef (or ground turkey?) in the slow cooker. Now I can't imagine why not. Definitely going on my list to try ASAP. (And I have to say that a slow cooker that lets you brown and slow cook in the same pot is brilliant, isn't it?)

  2. Lydia, I am loving the taco meat. And I do love how the Ninja will let you brown things, but you can do this in any slow cooker.

  3. I love that you can do this! I do this with ground turkey all the time. I hate standing at the stove cooking it. I just throw in the crockpot and it works so great 🙂

  4. I had a couple of duh moments while reading this. First, I'm with you, I never thought of cooking ground beef in the crockpot and second using the crockpot more during the summer is a brilliant idea. I always thought of the crockpot as a winter cooking tool. How silly of me!!!! Anyhoo, I'm definitely going to try this as taco salads are also one of my favorites. Thanks. 🙂

  5. Karen, I should have know you would be ahead of the curve on this method! I need to try it with ground turkey next.

    Chasing Joy, I was thrilled with how this produced perfectly browned meat with just the texture I wanted. Hope you enjoy!

  6. Hi Kalnyn, Love this idea. Wonder how vension would work? Since that seems to be our main meat will have to try it.

  7. Hi Patti, I'm guessing it will work great with venison; please let us know what you think!

  8. Why is it that I wind up saying to myself "Well, duh" when I read so many of your recipes? Thanks for making my light bulb go on once again. Totally gonna try this for a weekend slow cooker recipe.

  9. Donna, it's not just you. I feel that way regularly when I see things around the web! Glad you like!

  10. This looks awesome! I never thought of this either. Definitely in on this. My wife and I love taco salad. We usually roast some tomatoes and onions to go with it, then she makes a dressing out of smashed avacados and sour cream, darn good!

    One thing your missing though, corn starch. The corn starch turns the liquid into a sauce which sticks to the meat. I learned that from "AB's taco potion #19". This is his seasoning "mix", and I can attest to it's tasti-ness!

    2 tablespoons chili powder
    1 tablespoon ground cumin
    2 teaspoons cornstarch
    2 teaspoons kosher salt
    1 1/2 teaspoons hot smoked paprika
    1 teaspoon ground coriander
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

    Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/taco-potion-19-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

  11. Pyrofish, in my recipes I use low-glycemic ingredients (suitable for the South Beach diet, or for use by others who need to limit blood sugar.) Cornstarch is not something I would ever use in a recipe like this, and it's not needed either, the hot sauce is plenty thick.

  12. Aha, good point. I hadn't thought of that, but it makes sense. Thanks for all you're doing Kalyn! Love the blog!

  13. I was intrigued by this recipe, so in the spirit of playing-with-my-food, I made it. I turned out very well. It seemed odd not to brown the meat, but, the flavor was very good. In fact, I used this instead of the Italian saugage for the grilled portobellos. It worked out just fine (i.e., there weren't any leftovers)! Thanks!

  14. Glad you liked it! I'm about to make my second batch.

  15. Could you do this same recipe with chicken breasts?

  16. Adriana, I'd look for a recipe that's meant for chicken, like Slow Cooker Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wrap Tacos. You can use that chicken in any taco, burrito, or tostada.

  17. Can i use a different hot sauce then that don't have it if so any recommendations i usually have red hot buffalo hot sauce or red hot original Cayenne pepper hot sauce

  18. I think any hot sauce you like the flavor of will work, although the original Tabasco is a lot hotter than the hot sauce I used. You might start with a smaller amount of hot sauce, you can always add more!

  19. Can you use a smaller amount of meat.

    • You could use less meat if you scale down the whole recipe and use a smaller slow cooker. But unless you don't have any freezer space, I recommend making the full amount because this freezes beautifully. I love being able to grab some from the freezer.

  20. This was very good!I left the cover partially off for the last half hour or so to cook a bit more moisture off but I don't think I needed to; as it cooled it thickened up quite a bit.

  21. This is our very favorite taco meat. We make it all the time. Now, as we're cooking as much of the food in our freezer in preparation of evacuating for Hurricane Irma, I see I only have 90/10 ground beef….do you think that extra 1% of fat will make a big difference? Thanks! 🙂

  22. Pingback: How To Quickly Thaw Ground Beef Without Microwave - Tutorial How

  23. Can this just be made on the stove

    • I’m sure it can, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you about the timing since I haven’t done it that way. It might need a little more added liquid when the meat simmers for stove-top cooking!

  24. When you take a container out of the freezer, do you just microwave it from frozen? Do you defrost first, then heat?

    • If you’re heating in the microwave I would let it thaw in the fridge first. My preferred way to heat is in a small pan on the stove, add a bit of water, let it thaw the meat and warm it at the same time. I think stovetop heating gives better flavor. (Not that I am at all anti-microwave, I just like heating this kind of thing on the stove.) But either way will definitely work.

  25. Love this recipe! I use it all the time and it’s always a hit. If I were to double or even triple this recipe for a party, how much longer would it need to cook for?

    • Hi Sarah,
      Glad you have enjoyed the recipe. I don’t think the cooking time would be that much longer for a larger amount, maybe 30 minutes longer. I haven’t made it in a bigger batch though, so that’s only a guess. Allow plenty of time because you can always keep it warm after it’s done!

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